Prebat - Smatsche - Recknot - Huzmers
Towards the latter end of the year 1872 the Army began to occupy a little more attention as by numerous desertions (mostly to the colours of G Collard the army started to show so marked a deficiency in numbers, material so that it was plain to their General that the time was at hand when either the army should be reorganised throughout, the force increased, the officers augmenting & the staff revising, as the only alternative, that of immediately disbanding the troops under arms to prevent a further expenditure and decay.
The former alternative was chosen and in November 1872, 4 Prussian infantry regiments* (now the 10th, 11th, 12th and 40th Foot) were raised. The following month 4 infantry Regiments*(now the 27th 87th + 88th Foot and 1st Battn Coldstream Guards) were added to the army.
Feb 5th 1873 ushered into the camp the 9th Cuirassiers. The troops were first exposed to artillery fire on the 22nd Feb at which a newly raised Cavalry Regiment (3rd Dragoons) was present. The CG [Coldstream Guards], 27th, 87th, 88th Foot with the 9th C[uirassiers] stormed and took the defiles and fort of “Prebat” from the Prussian Infantry and the 3rd Dragoons.
March 1st The enemy having gathered the remains of the garrison form the battle of “Prebat” took post behind the hill of “Smatcshe”). The pursuing force arrived on the crest of the hill before the fleeing army was discovered. Preparations were at once made for the attack. Both armies had secured reinforcements. The 11th Hussars were added to H Keef’s Army and the 7th Dragoons to that of the enemy (*the 27th, 87th and 88th Regiments who had behaved so well at Prebat had gone over to the enemy). The advance to the right of the enemy’s line having extended too far, and considerably reduced the centre for the purpose of turning H.I.M.’s [His Imperial Majesty’s] Left. H.I.M. rode to the front and led on Drouot’s Artillery, a new and splendid corps.
They moved forward steadfastly with their fine Commander at their head. The Emperor followed with the Old French and Grenadier Guards, new Regiment also the 9th Cuirassiers. Against the weakened centre the steady masses under Drouot’s command threw their all powerful strength. The shock was terrific. Pressed forward by the corps behind (Coldstream Guards), the troops went forward in fine style, the centre was completely crushed. In vain the 4th & 3rd Dragoons endeavoured to retrieve the lost ground, the former were charged and broken by the 8th Hussars, the latter were driven off by the superior Cuirassiers.
H.I.M. having reformed his broken column led on to the attack of the left wing. Mercury so justly renowned here for a time kept his ground but the whole of the force being overwhelmed he took to flight. After this no resistance was offered and 4 guns & 18 prisoners and the greater part of the material of his army was taken. His loss was immense while we had comparatively suffered little. One Regiment (the Grenadier Guard) which took the rear and protected the attacking column was all most [sic] annihilated by the fire of an Armstrong Battery from the enemy’s right. This was the only considerable loss. During the night the Right [were] unable to maintain their position through the defeat of the Left and centre and the loss + want of artillery and ammunition and retired by the road to Huzmers.
H.I.M.’s army came up with the enemy at Recknot where having received a powerful contingent they determined to make a stand.
The Emperor detaching 2 troops of Drouot’s Artillery to open fire on the extreme left of his position. This battery was furiously charged by the 3rd Dragoons and the 9th Cuirassiers. The defection of the latter corps was most unwarranted, as H.I.M. had attached this fine Regiment about his person and loaded them with gifts and honours. (The defection of the 9th C[uirassier]s caused the want of cavalry, especially in the present + severe deplete and such was the urgency of the time that 5 new Cavalry Regts were immediately levied (188.8.131.52 +12th)).
The 12th Lancers attempting to support Drouot’s Artillery were hopelessly smashed by the many squadrons of the enemy’s horse. On this H.I.M. ordered the 1st Brigade of Heavy Cavalry of the Guard (1st Life Guards & 6th Dragoon Guards) to charge, with a cheer the men dashed into the thickest of the fray. Cuirassiers, Hussars & Dragoons fled headlong before this splendid force, throwing the infantry of the left into disorder in their hurry to escape the swords of their destroyers. Pell-mell into the disordered ranks the affrighted Cavalry rushed. The opportunity was seized in a moment by H.I.M. to fill up the gap in the broken line. Accordingly, into the midst of the confusion dashed the Heavy brigade followed by the Grenadier Guards and Drouot’s Artillery. At this time the Right wing of the enemy was attacked and driven back by H.I.M.’s Left and finally broken and thrown into disorder by a furious charge of the 6th Eniskillen Dragoons & 2nd Scots Greys. The two wings were now in direful condition and in full retreat.
The Centre then made a rigorous stand but the powerful artillery fire to which they were exposed being too destructive to maintain the position about 5 pm they retreated. The 87th and 88th Regiments, under Mercury, now Major, kept the ground for some time, but H.I.M. advanced that fine regiment the Coldstream Guards, who quickly dispersed the. The 87th and 88th were then the Napoleon + Mercurian Guard.
A large number of fugitives fled along the road to Huzmers but many were cut down by the pursuing Cavalry. But the horses were so exhausted that the pursuit could not be extended over a space of 3 miles, the men having been in the saddle 10 hours.
Owing to this the main body were collated + reformed + the following day fell back. H.I.M. having determined to rest his army bivouacked on the field of battle. A strong rearguard being attached and repulsed by the enemy on the 15th. H.I.M. hurried to the front but the enemy had gone. On reconnoitring it was found that they were determined to make a final stand at the head of the pass of Huzmers a strong + numerous force being there assembled. H.I.M. at once issued orders + the dawn of the 15th found his division in front of the enemy. A splendid attack of 2 troops of DA [Drouot’s Artillery] + 3rd Bn GG [3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards] in spite of a charge of the 3rd Dragoons and a vigorous resistance from the 11th regiment turned the left wing.
The overthrow of his Heavy Cavalry in the Centre by the Life + Dragoon Guards and on his extreme Right the Light Cavalry by the 12th Lancers + 9th Dragoons annihilated the mounted arm of his force, all this attended with great loss. By 3.30 pm his Centre had begun to give way before the ceaseless + destructive fire of the 3rd + 4th troops DA [Drouot’s Artillery] and the spirited charges made by the Foot Guards. The Left however stood firm. Although opposed to the cannonade of DA the Centre now being supported by the reserves began to retrieve the lost ground. This was the decisive moment.
H.I.M. ordered the Coldstream Guards (who had been in the rear + had not been engaged) to advance and break the opposing lines. With a mighty “Vive l’Empereur” they passed onto the front. What emotions filled each breast as that thrilling shout arose! What emotions filled the Emperor’s mind as the bearskinned warriors went on. On this depended his Rule, his Fortune + Fate. Oh! What a mighty state depending on these veteran troops. They knew the task entrusted to them. And as the cannons mowed them down, as deploying into line they pushed upon the foe, as wounded, dying, bleeding on the ground, as driving on before the defeated enemy, as joining in the universal cry of victory each thought of their General + Emperor alone.
All was now confusion + dismay. All was forgotten in their hasty flight. The splendid charge of the Coldstreams had disheartened each one, fear possessed the routed + overthrown enemy. The whole surrendered including the general. Many who had resolutely fought on and been wounded were taken prisoner. The victory was complete. H.I.M. returned back laden with trophies and spoil from the field. 7 guns + all the material of the enemy was taken and the spirit of mutiny (for a time) broken.